Democratic Underground

A Pacifist's First Day in Shooting Class

December 14, 2005
By Aubrey Ellen Shomo

I'm a pacifist, but, recently, I've been thinking about getting a concealed weapons permit. I want to be able to call myself "The Packing Pacifist." It would go over well with my conservative relatives. Also, it could be fun to show people my permit and my psychiatric records at the same time.

I live in a shall-issue state, which means that they can't really say no - as long as I take a basic class. With this in mind, I went to a website on concealed weapons, and clicked on a link to an approved school. A few clicks, and a hundred dollars, later I was enrolled in a class set for the very next day. I was going to be taking a course called NRA basic pistol.

I must point out that the events in this article are a factual account. This may read like a parody, and may indeed seem to portray larger-than-life stereotypes, but I am saddened to inform you that it is all too true...

The class was in a little shop in a little strip mall, in an industrial part of town. There was an 8 1/2" x 11" paper sign in one of the windows that announced the school. I could tell this was a high-class establishment.

Inside, I filled out a standard form to make sure I was legal. Restraining orders? None. Felony? Nope. Ever been committed? Snicker. Technically, no. Not by a court. Am I a fugitive from justice? I bet fugitives usually answer that one honestly.

With the formalities out of the way, it was time to learn from my esteemed teachers. The first guy introduced himself.

"Let me give you a little history. I was an EMT for 15 years, throughout the metro area. I stopped wanting to take s*** from patients, and decided I'd have to stop being a paramedic before I got arrested. Now, I trade stocks, options, and teach guns."

And people think I shouldn't be armed.

He continued, "This is the NRA basic pistol class. This is not a defense class, as the NRA wants this class to appear to be about sport shooting and marksmanship. This is also the approved Concealed Weapons class. Ignore the silhouette target on the wall there; I just forgot to take it down. I will answer questions about self-defense on the breaks."

We learned to never point the gun at anything we did not want to shoot, keep our fingers off the triggers until ready, and to never keep the gun loaded. Unless we want to carry it concealed. Then we should keep it loaded, regardless of what the NRA says.

We learned about the safety on a firearm. "Never trust that the safety will work. It can fail."

"That's why I don't even use mine," added another instructor, just to make sure we were familiar with the different, but equally valid, views on the matter. I'm glad they weren't teaching high-school biology.

We went through how guns work, and what the parts are named. I learned that when you fire a semi-automatic, the slide moves forward then back. (That's actually not true. It does the opposite.) I learned that you could tell the difference between a revolver and a semi-auto.

The instructor who didn't use safeties taught that a gun's caliber is the size of the bullet in millimeters. A nine-caliber round is pretty typical. (It isn't. 9mm is a pistol round. .09 calibers would be similar to a staple gun. 9 calibers would be big for tank ammo. Then again, with these people, you couldn't be sure.)

I also learned that different calibers and different guns have different uses.

"That's why I have 300 of them," added the first instructor. "You don't use a .22 for self defense. That's what a .357 magnum is for." I also learned that "A desert eagle .50 caliber is a good hunting pistol."

Lastly, before covering aiming and firing, we were taught about cleaning. "I like to clean my gun. It's part of the whole experience," exclaimed the instructor who had taught us about millimeters.

So, with the classroom out of the way, we got to handle some unloaded guns, then it was off to the range.

A few days later, I got my certificate in the mail. I am now qualified for a concealed weapons permit.

Aubrey Ellen Shomo has a work forthcoming in Transgender Tapestry and Telicom, and had a short play read at the 2005 Curious New Voices Festival in Denver, CO. Her website can be found at .

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